Posted: October 27, 2010

Student Perspective by Warren Gray

Dear incoming 1st years,

Your arrival makes our class the new 2nd years, but the grad school decision process is still fresh in our minds. We all faced the confusion over whether one should join BME or BIOE, as well as auxiliary programs such as PKU. It is our desire to informally present to you a brief student's perspective on the collaborative program among Georgia Tech, Emory, and Peking University (PKU). We had three students (Eric Alonas, Warren Gray, and Tanu Thote) enrolled in the program when we entered in August 2009, and two additional students (Kristin Loomis and Akhil Srinivasan) joined later after gaining a greater understanding of the program.

We should start by saying that this joint program is young-we are the first class-and as such, details in the program are still being worked out, including logistics with respect to classes, seminars, and research with animal models. Also, because collaborations among labs are still being established, research projects at PKU may not align with our research in Atlanta. Our year in China is not supposed to prolong our graduation, but we all agree that if we do end up spending some extra time in grad school, the experience in China will be well worth it.

Let's move on to reasons we joined the program. As biomedical engineering is inherently a very collaborative field, we feel like experiencing BME outside of the US would be good preparation for our future careers. China is an increasingly influential player in the world scene, and we recognize the benefit of working there versus other countries. Furthermore, PKU is a very prestigious institution and we have the exceptional opportunity to collaborate with high class facility there. Additionally, at a lunch recently with Sue Van, president of the Coulter Foundation, she commented on the untold advantages we are positioned to gain from the program: due in part to resource availability and scientific heritage, the Chinese way of approaching problem solving can significantly differ from the Western approach, leading to simple, profound solutions.

This program is reasonably unique to the BME department at Tech and Emory- at other schools, graduate study abroad programs are subject to professor funding, existing collaborations, and faculty willingness, but here it is supported by the department. Furthermore, PKU program students are provided with two years of funding, which allows for greater freedom in choosing advisors and projects.

Of course, a major reason we are in the PKU program is because it adds a significant cultural component to our academic experience. While we are working on our PhDs, we will be taking on adventures like learning Mandarin, navigating around Beijing, creating friendships with Chinese students, and using chopsticks to eat a year's worth of Chinese food! Imagine taking study breaks to visit the Forbidden City, Olympic venues, and the Great Wall. Enticing, isn't it?

Consider joining the PKU program! We believe it has several academic and cultural advantages you will not find anywhere else. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

All the best,

Warren Gray
(soon to be) 2nd year BME/PKU students.
warrendgray@gatech.edu